Psychosocial Hazards Focus: High Workload

Are you grappling with the challenges of psychosocial risk management in your organisation? You're not alone. Many companies we work with voice a common concern: identifying potential hazards in the workplace. And what tops their list of suspected risks? High workload.

Recognising the prevalence and impact of high workload on employees' mental health and productivity, we held a professional development webinar to address this pressing issue.

In this comprehensive session we explored effective strategies for managing and mitigating the risks associated with high workloads. Our latest blog post outlines the key takeaways from this session:

Understanding the Impact of High Workload

The consequences of an excessive workload are far-reaching, affecting both physical health and mental well-being. Research highlights the alarming health risks associated with long working hours,

“ A joint study by the World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation showed that working more than 55 hours a week significantly increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.”

The global acknowledgment of these hazards has led to legislative changes, urging employers to take responsibility for their employees' psychological well-being.

Identifying the Underlying Causes of High Workload

High workload means the amount of work exceeds what can realistically be done in the standard amount of work time. In roughly about 30% of our clients, the data indeed supports the fact that staff members have unrealistic workloads. The underlying causes are most often high staff turnover and staff shortages or rapid growth.

What about the other 70%? The story gets interesting here. What the data shows us is that perceptions of high workload are actually underpinned by a mix of other hazards. The most common scenario is that ineffective work systems cause tasks to take longer than average, which creates a backlog of work and the impression that the amount of work is high. Often times, added to this mix is lack of role clarity. So, staff use a lot of working time trying to figure out what they should do and who to ask for support.

Recognising these underlying causes is the first step towards effective management.

Strategic Approaches to Manage High Workload

Creating a healthier workplace necessitates a comprehensive strategy that includes:

  1. Leadership Commitment: Leaders play a pivotal role in addressing psychosocial hazards. Their commitment to understanding and acting on these issues is crucial for meaningful change.
  2. Identifying Underlying Causes: A thorough analysis to uncover the root causes of high workload enables targeted interventions.
  3. Training and Education: Equipping managers with the knowledge to recognize and mitigate psychosocial hazards, alongside training staff on stress management and workload reporting, is essential.
  4. Targeted Interventions: Solutions should focus on improving workplace systems, clarifying roles and responsibilities, enhancing communication, and promoting a balanced work culture.

A Success Story: Transforming the Workplace

A case study highlighted in the webinar demonstrated the power of targeted interventions. By forming a working group that included leadership, WHS, HR, and diversity representatives, one organization managed to align its well-being strategy with its health and safety strategy. They then enlisted our help to identify psychosocial hazards in their workplace and their underlying causes, and put in place controls to eliminate or reduce them.

“This holistic approach led to an 18% reduction in severe burnout risk scores and notable improvements in job resources and role clarity.”

Watch the full webinar to learn more about the positive outcomes achieved in this case study and how your organisation can implement strategies to prevent high workload related stress.


Embracing the Challenge

Addressing high workload is not just about reducing hours; it's about creating an environment where employees can thrive without being overwhelmed. By focusing on the root causes and implementing strategic interventions, we can make significant strides toward a healthier workplace.

Message from Georgi

If you would like to explore opportunities to work together, book a 15-min chat below.

Some of the topics we can talk about include:

  • Psychosocial hazards Audit for your organisation
  • The Manager’s Toolkit: psychosocial risk management
  • Psychological Health and Safety for Staff
  • A sustainable wellbeing strategy for your organisation
  • Wellbeing Training for your organisation

About Dr. Georgi Toma

Georgi is an expert in stress, burnout and workplace mental health.

She is the founder of Heart & Brain Works. She also conducts research at the University of Auckland.

She is the creator of the Wellbeing Protocol,  the only scientifically validated training to reduce burnout and improve mental wellbeing at work, in NZ and AU.

Research evidence shows the Wellbeing Protocol helps employees:

  • reduce stress by up to 58%
  • reduce burnout by up to 60%
  • improve metal wellbeing by up to 103%.

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